If you’re feeling like there is little new under the sun, you would do well to look east and listen to TEKE::TEKE. First formed by guitarist Serge Nakauchi-Pelletier as a tribute to Takeshi Terauchi, a pioneer of eleki, a sort of Japanese surf-rock that started to catch on in the 1960’s, TEKE::TEKE soon found their stride with the addition of singer Maya Kuroki and arrived at a sound that was boldly their own.
With the release of their first LP, Shirushiso, two years ago, this seven-piece outfit from Montreal didn’t just make waves, but effectively cannonballed onto the scene with their explosive blend of eleki, art-rock, and Japanese folk music. Hagata, the group’s much awaited sophomore release, sees the group diving from yet greater heights and they stick the landing gracefully.
Hagata begins with ‘Garakuta’, an explosive number that places the listener in a swirling soundscape of traditional Japanese instrumentation that traverses genres like garage-rock, art-rock, big band, film music, and psychedelia. TEKE::TEKE don’t necessarily tread new ground, but manage to create novelty by combining traditional and contemporary forms in otherwise unexpected and satisfying ways. Take the sixth track ‘Doppelganger’ for instance, which boldly takes on the ‘Western’ theme and imbues it with a strong umami flavour, making it a solid contender for the Kill Bill soundtrack.
As a seven-piece, the band have a broad sonic palette to work with, making for plenty of dramatic moments and cinematic textures throughout the album. Really each song seems to be a self-contained soundtrack unto itself, but the album is delightfully consistent in terms of quality and in terms of creating a satisfying narrative arc from start to finish. “Setagaya Koya” is another highlight which is a clever take on the 70’s cop thriller.
Through their outlandishness and Noh-inspired theatrics, TEKE::TEKE raise some very real questions here, of environmental catastrophe, and of identity. While the album carries a sense of familiarity, fans of their previous work will be very pleased by the band’s evolution and willingness to push the envelope just a bit further here. Hagata is above all an exercise in joy and creativity.